Shark Tank’s Oddball Reasoning

I love watching Shark Tank.

It’s one of the few TV shows today where you might actually LEARN something about business.

Sure, we’ll never know exactly how much is scripted… what gets cut… how they decide who enters the “tank.” But overall it looks a lot more truthful than other reality shows.

Most contestants walk away empty-handed. The sharks always explain — however brief — why they’re not interested.

They give all the normal reasons you’d expect from savvy investors — low profit margins, inventory issues, inability to scale up — but also stuff like:


  • “I don’t like honey so I’m out” (said to a beehive manufacturer).
  • “Kids don’t like rules so I’m out” (said to a toy creator whose product came with a rule book).
  • “You’re dead to me” (said by Kevin O’Leary to any creator who annoys him).

I always think these types of excuses are a cop-out to avoid hurting the feelings of the contestants.

When it comes down to it, saying “no” to someone — IN PERSON — is uncomfortable. Even for a professional. A silly excuse like “I don’t like honey” ends the conversation without having to address perceived flaws in the product… a very sensitive subject for any product creator.

That happens all the time in real life. It’s why prospects don’t call you back… ESPECIALLY when it sounded like they were close to saying “yes.”

Once a prospect has decided to pass on you, they’d rather avoid you.

And the arguments. Mark Cuban is the worst. He likes to accuse contestants of insulting his intelligence. Which they might be but… why not just say no? (oh yeah — fiery passion juices the ratings!).

Strange but true; unprovoked shouting happens in real life. Last year a print shop owner flipped out on me after I proposed a referral program. He was insulting and irrational when he couldv’e just waved me off.

Of course, some of the crazy reasons the Sharks give probably are true. People are WEIRD. They carry around all sorts of quirks and personal baggage that influence their decisions.

Your gray suit… the banner on your website… your company’s logo… your accent… all might internally rankle them. They might not even know why they don’t like you, they just don’t.

All of which is to say: you can’t please everyone. But the more you know about your audience, the better chance you have of neutralizing their biases.

If you’ll be making a pitch to one person, learn everything you can about them beforehand. Google them first, then go to LinkedIn, then Facebook. 10 minutes of work.

If you’re trying to close a deal with a group of people — check out ALL of them online — again, shockingly easy to do.

And if you’re trying to sell to more than that? A whole market segment?

Then you’ll have to build a composite sketch — an avatar. You have to understand them intimately. That’s the only way you’ll break through.

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